Have you ever wondered how to tell coffin vs ballerina nails apart?
A crucial difference that sets ballerina nails apart from coffin nails is the shape of the nail tips. Ballerina nails have slightly more rounded edges while coffin nails have almost razor blade straight-edged tips. The edges of coffin nails should be at a perfect 90-degree angle.
I have been doing nails for years and love trying out different shapes on both clients and myself. I’m here to explain the difference between ballerina vs. coffin nails so you can decide which nail shape is best for you and your style.
Are coffin and ballerina nails the same?
No, coffin and ballerina nails are not the same. It’s easy to confuse the two nail shapes because they both have sharp corners at the tip and look like a variation of a basic rectangular nail.
Though the difference between the two styles is a matter of degrees, once you’ve worn both you’ll know they feel different and look distinct.
Key difference between coffin vs ballerina nails
Though the two shapes are remarkably similar, there is one key difference between coffin and ballerina nails. Coffin nails have a straight-edged side, while the sides of ballerina nails are more rounded.
Coffin nails catch or snag more easily on fabric and skin than ballerina nails. For more on how to avoid that keep reading.
Other than that, the two are practically identical. Both are typically only done on longer acrylic nails, and each ends in a squared-off flat tip.
How to do ballerina nails
As the name suggests, this style is called ballerina nails as a tribute to the recognizable pointe shoes ballerinas wear. The shape is similar to the dance slippers in that they’re wider around your nail but get narrower as the nails get longer.
The tip almost resembles stiletto nails, which end in a point, except ballerina nails end with a blunt edge instead.
I love how easy the ballerina nail shape is. Here’s how I like to shape my ballerina manicure:
- File straight out but gradually work it into a narrower tip. Avoid using manicured nails for this step. Otherwise, the risk is that the ballerina nail will end up with a straight cut rather than a more rounded look along the sides.
- Once the edges have been finished, file the ends into a flat, straight edge.
How to DIY coffin nails yourself
Coffin nails get their name because the shape resembles—you guessed it—a coffin. They’re similar to the ballerina shape. Both are long nails with flat tips, but the coffin style is more squared while the ballerina style is more rounded.
Like the ballerina shape, the coffin nail shape is also relatively easy. The easiest way to shape this style is with manicure scissors. With this tool on hand, I recommend following these steps to achieve the desired shape:
- Cut a blunt straight tip, then imagine a straight line up the middle of the nail.
- From there, imagine diagonal lines to each side, pointing from the middle of the tip to the side of your fingertip.
- Cut along the imaginary diagonal lines to form the coffin shape, leaving a flat edge along the tip of the nail.
- Once you’re done cutting, you can use a nail file to smooth out the edges and perfect the shape.
If you’d rather skip this process, and want to get a quick sense of what coffin nails will look like on your hands, try a set of cute press-on coffin nails for a test run.
Ballerina vs coffin nails, color and design options
Since coffin vs. ballerina nails are so similar, they look good with similar nail polish colors and designs. The two are usually done on longer acrylic nails, meaning these shapes can handle more intricate designs.
Some of the currently popular designs include:
- Checkerboard: This style comes in classic black-and-white or various colors.
- French manicure: Again, in classic white or colors.
- Baby French: Just like the classic French tips but with a much thinner line that just barely grazes the very tip of the nail.
- Flowers: This is a floral style in neutrals or colors.
- Rainbow: Comes in pastels or bright shades, with a different color on each nail.
- Mismatched art: A variety of abstract patterns in different bright or pastel colors.
- Swirls: Whether its colors or neutrals, swirls over a clear nail bed are all the rage.
- Smiley faces: Either full-nail smileys or tiny ones all over the nails.
- Ombre nails: Pick one color and start with the darkest shade on the thumb and go lighter the closer to the pinkie.
Whether it’s a white French tip or a bright-colored set, it’s always a great time to get your nails done. There are so many different fun trends to try that you can’t go wrong with when it comes to nail art and color for long ballerina or coffin-style nails.
When not to wear ballerina nails and coffin nails
If I had the opportunity to ask Kylie Jenner, she’d probably tell me there’s never a bad time to wear coffin-shaped nails. If you look at her Instagram or watch her family’s reality show, you’ll see that she’s almost always wearing a set of long coffin-shaped nails.
One downside to coffin and ballerina nails is that they have relatively sharp corners, which can scratch. It might not be a good idea to wear this shape if you work with babies or young kids, or if you have to wear gloves regularly.
How to keep long nails from snagging on your cloths
Extra long nails can pose serious challenges to getting dressed, including poking holes in your clothing. So how can you enjoy long coffin nails and not ruin your cutest panties and leggings?
Here are a few hacks to help you stop shredding your favorite outfits:
- Place a clear drop of builder gel each corner of your coffin nails to create an invisible cushion on the sharp edges of your nails.
- Avoid sheer fabrics to begin with. Sheer stockings, chiffon, silks, moire, mesh, lace, anything sheer as well as looser weaves like some cashmeres and mohair.
- If you have to wear tights look for a higher percentage of Lycra in stockings. You can also spray your stockings with hairspray before you put them on. This helps keep the fibers from ripping.
- Use your knuckles to pull up leggings, yoga pants, etc.
- Use the sides of your thumbs and fingers whenever possible, like when buttoning jeans or shirts.
- Opt for ballerina nails which naturally have slightly softer corners than coffin nails.
What’s the difference between coffin vs ballerina nails?
When looking at ballerina vs. coffin shape nails, it’s really hard to tell the difference between the two. But one of the key differences between the two is the edges.
Coffin-shaped nails have straight-edged sides leading up to their blunt tips, while ballerina nails are similar, they have more rounded sides leading up to the tips.
Are coffin or ballerina nails better?
Ultimately, this comes down to your personal preference. After all, the two shapes are so similar that you have got to look closely to notice the difference. You might be the only person likely to know which style of nail shape you’re wearing. Shhhh! 😉
If you want a slightly softer look, I recommend the ballerina shape. I find the coffin shape works best when you want a more squared-off, uniformed-looking nail.
Either way, your nails are going to look great and your fingers are going to look longer.
What is the most flattering nail shape?
I’ve always considered this kind of question a bit vague as it depends on your fingers and nail beds. For shorter fingers and long natural nails.
I think coffin and ballerina are some of the most flattering nail shapes around (along with almond nails and oval nails!). These shapes help elongate natural nails and make the fingers look longer and more elegant as well.
Beloved nail polish brand OPI recommends both the ballerina and coffin shapes for acrylic nail enthusiasts because they require salon maintenance and are harder to do at home.
What nail shape is the strongest and why?
This is a highly debated topic, but generally, people seem to agree that the round or “squoval” (square tip with rounded corners) are some of the more reliable styles for strength.
Celebrity manicurist Jin Sui Choi told Harper’s Bazaar that coffin and ballerina nails are “chic and strong.” So don’t rule this shape out completely, no matter the worries about breaking a nail.
These shapes are typically done on longer nails, which are more prone to breakage, but they should be fine as long as they are treated with care.
Key takeaways on coffin vs ballerina nails
Ballerina and coffin nail shapes are borderline indistinguishable, but they’re two of the most fashionable shapes out there right now, and I love that they are such a statement manicure!
The main difference is that coffin nails have straight-edged sides while ballerina nails are more rounded.
If you’re going for a softer look, I suggest the ballerina shape. The coffin shape is edgier. The coffin and ballerina shapes are great for elongating short fingers and nail beds, and they’re popular with celebrities like Kylie Jenner. But they aren’t ideal for working with small kids or regular glove use.
If you love these styles, or just want more inspo, check out my article on 15 Different Types of Manicures!
Kim is an expert, with over 7 years in the nail art and makeup industry. She is an avid DIY nail artist and now contributing writer at BeautyStack.